Ubuntu Education Fund, 10 Years Later

From our friends at the Ubuntu Education Fund.

When we founded Ubuntu Education Fund (www.ubuntufund.org) in 1999, we did so with the mission to ensure that the young people of Port Elizabeth townships had access to higher education and employment. For the past 10 years, we have reported the ways in which we serve children and families, but now we can also report on the long-term change we have always sought. Higher-education and sustainable employment have remained our goals, but our way of ensuring the success of our children has evolved into what we call the Ubuntu Model. This Model is:

  • People-centered: The word ubuntu refers to the common thread of humanity, that we are all connected to each other. Whatever service Ubuntu provides, we stay focused on what the individual needs and respect the individual’s humanity. We prioritize what our community tells us, not what studies about them have to say. Our staff is part of the community, and actively participates in shaping its future.
  • Comprehensive: A child’s academic future is not determined solely by the quality of the academic materials. Rape, disease, poverty, and hunger can disrupt the success of the brightest, most dedicated student. Therefore, we have found it essential to stabilize the home life of the child in order to ensure his/her future success.
  • Geographically-focused: Many in the international development field believe in “scaling-up” programs to reach more people, even though this often results in compromised quality of services. Early on, the Ubuntu team chose to remain geographically focused and dedicated to providing high-quality services. We drew a seven-kilometer radius around our office in Port Elizabeth, and we have refused to work outside of that circle. While the area may seem small, within it 400,000 individuals live in dire poverty and only 40,000 are accessing Ubuntu’s lifesaving services. These numbers reaffirm the fact that we still have plenty to do.

The Ubuntu Model is working. We have developed our programs to suit the needs and challenges of the Port Elizabeth townships. Expertise comes from our communities; it is our job as an NGO to draw on that expertise to make positive change. Our communities are preparing themselves for a brighter future. We are proud to be a part of it.